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Image forming apparatus

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Title: Image forming apparatus.
Abstract: An image forming apparatus includes an image data acquisition unit, a frequency distribution acquisition unit, and a color setting unit. The image data acquisition unit acquires image data representing a color image. The frequency distribution acquisition unit allocates a color of each pixel of the data as a class and acquires a frequency distribution representing an occurrence rate of the color based on the data acquired by the image data acquisition unit. The color setting unit sets a first color with the highest frequency distribution occurrence rate as a background color in the color image, sets a second color with an occurrence rate next in magnitude to the first color as a character color in the color image, and sets a color with an occurrence rate lower than that of the second color as a pattern color that is a color of a specific pattern in the color image. ...


Browse recent Kyocera Mita Corporation patents - Osaka-shi, JP
Inventor: Hiroyuki Harada
USPTO Applicaton #: #20120105880 - Class: 358 19 (USPTO) - 05/03/12 - Class 358 


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The Patent Description & Claims data below is from USPTO Patent Application 20120105880, Image forming apparatus.

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BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates to an image forming apparatus that forms color images.

2. Description of the Related Art

Among image forming apparatuses such as printers, copiers, and all-in-one machines, those provided with a color printing mode and a monochromatic mode have been known. Further, a full-color mode and a two-color color mode are known as color printing modes.

In the full-color mode, printing is performed using all of the color toners provided in the image forming apparatus, and in the two-color color mode, printing is performed using a black toner and one chromatic color (specific color) other than black. A chromatic color is obtained by mixing a plurality of chromatic color toners.

In the above-described image forming apparatus, the two-color color mode is implemented in the below-described manner.

The above-described image forming apparatus is provided with a plurality of color component counter units having, for example, blue, green, and red color components allocated one by one thereto. Each color component counter unit counts the number of pixels of the color allocated to the color component counter unit from among a plurality of pixels included in image data.

Then, the above-described image forming apparatus sets the color corresponding to the color component counter unit with the highest count value as the specific color (one specific color). The image forming apparatus then prints the black portions of the image data with black and prints the color portions by using the specific color that has thus been set.

In business documents, black characters constitute a major portion of the document, and only a logo mark, which is a company mark, is often printed in a chromatic color. This is because the color of the logo mark is an important element representing the company. Further, only underlining lines and markers in the black text document are also often printed in a chromatic color.

Since the logo mark color is often the corporate color representing the specific company, the user needs this logo mark color to be truthfully reproduced on the paper. It is also desirable that the underlining lines and markers be truthfully reproduced.

The following problems are encountered when a document in which only a pattern such as a logo mark, underlining lines, and markers are printed in a chromatic color is printed in a two-color color mode in the above-described image forming apparatus.

Thus, since the above-described image forming apparatus prints the color portion by using the color corresponding to the color component counter unit with the highest count value, the color that can be used for printing the color portion is limited to any of the colors that have been allocated to the color component counter portions in advance.

For this reason, even when the original color image that is to be printed uses only one color other than black, a difference in hue can occur between the color of the color portion in the original color image and the color of the color portion actually printed in the two-color color mode.

SUMMARY

OF THE INVENTION

It is an object of the present invention to provide an image forming apparatus that can increase reproducibility of the color of the pattern when the image including the pattern of a chromatic color is printed.

An image forming apparatus according to one aspect of the present invention includes an image data acquisition unit, a frequency distribution acquisition unit, and a color setting unit. The image data acquisition unit acquires image data representing a color image. The frequency distribution acquisition unit allocates a color of each pixel of the image data as a class and acquires a frequency distribution representing an occurrence rate of the each color on the basis of the image data acquired by the image data acquisition unit. The color setting unit sets a first color that is a color with the highest occurrence rate in the frequency distribution acquired by the frequency distribution acquisition unit as a background color in the color image, sets a second color that is a color with an occurrence rate next in magnitude to the first color as a character color in the color image, and sets a color with an occurrence rate lower than that of the second color as a pattern color that is a color of a specific pattern in the color image.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a schematic cross-sectional view of the image forming apparatus according to one embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 2 is a block diagram illustrating an example of electric configuration of the image forming apparatus shown in FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 is an explanatory drawing illustrating schematically an example of the image of the document represented by image data;

FIG. 4A is an explanatory drawing illustrating an example of a histogram representing the occurrence rate of colors of each pixel of image data;

FIG. 4B is an explanatory drawing illustrating an example of a histogram representing the occurrence rate of colors of each pixel of image data;

FIG. 4C is an explanatory drawing illustrating an example of a histogram representing the occurrence rate of colors of each pixel of image data;

FIG. 5 is a flowchart illustrating an example of operation of the image forming apparatus shown in FIG. 2;

FIG. 6 is a flowchart illustrating an example of operation of the image forming apparatus shown in FIG. 2;

FIG. 7 is a flowchart illustrating an example of operation of the image forming apparatus shown in FIG. 2;

FIG. 8 is a flowchart illustrating an example of operation of the image forming apparatus shown in FIG. 2;

FIG. 9 is a flowchart illustrating another example of operation of the color setting unit shown in FIG. 6;

FIG. 10 is an explanatory drawing illustrating schematically an example of frequency distribution indicating the occurrence rate of color groups sharing high-order four bits for each color from among cyan, magenta, and yellow;

FIG. 11 illustrates schematically an example of frequency distribution in which a region in the form of a rectangular parallelepiped is formed by connecting a group association to which the first color group belongs with the group association to which the second color group belongs;

FIG. 12 is a perspective view illustrating schematically an example of group association configuration;

FIG. 13 is an exploded view illustrating schematically an example of group association configuration;

FIGS. 14A and 14B are explanatory drawings illustrating schematically the processing of the frequency distribution acquisition unit and color setting unit when the single-color pattern mode is set;

FIG. 15 is a block diagram illustrating another example of electric configuration of the image forming apparatus shown in FIG. 1;

FIG. 16 is a flowchart illustrating an example of operation of the image forming apparatus shown in FIG. 15;

FIG. 17 is a flowchart illustrating an example of operation of the image forming apparatus shown in FIG. 15; and

FIG. 18 is a flowchart illustrating an example of operation of the image forming apparatus shown in FIG. 15.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

Embodiments of the present invention will be described below with reference to the appended drawings. In the drawings, like components will be assigned with like reference numerals and the explanation thereof will be herein omitted. In the embodiments explained hereinbelow, a color image forming apparatus performing full color printing by using cyan (C), magenta (M), yellow (Y), and black (K) color toners will be explained by way of example.

The image forming apparatus may also perform full color printing by using red, green, blue, and black color toners.

First Embodiment

FIG. 1 is a schematic cross-sectional view of the image forming apparatus according to one embodiment of the present invention. The image forming apparatus 1 is provided with an image reading unit 200 and an image forming main body unit 22. The image reading unit 200 is constituted by a document feed unit 210, a scanner unit 220, a CIS 231, a user interface unit I arranged so as to be exposed on the front surface of the image forming main body unit 22, and the below described reverse mechanism.

The document feed unit 210 is provided with an ADF (Automatic Document Feeder) and has a document tray 211, a pick-up roller 212, a platen 213, a discharge roll 214, and a discharge tray 215. The documents that are the reading objects are placed on the document tray 211. The documents placed on the document tray 211 are picked up one by one by the pick-up roller 212 and successively conveyed via a gap to the platen 213. The documents that have passed over the platen 213 are successively discharged to the discharge tray 215 by the discharge roller 214.

A timing sensor (not shown in the figure) that detects paper sheets is arranged at a predetermined position before the reading position P in the document conveying path, from among the positions facing the circumferential surface of the platen 213, and the timing of the document conveying to the reading position P is determined on the basis of the output request of the timing sensor. The timing sensor is constituted, for example, by a photo-interrupter.

The scanner unit 220 optically reads the images of the documents and generates image data. The scanner unit 220 is provided with a glass 221, a light source 222, a first mirror 223, a second mirror 224, a third mirror 225, a first carriage 226, a second carriage 227, an image converging lens 228, and a CCD (Charge Coupled Device) 229.

The scanner unit 220 uses a white color fluorescent lamp such as a cold-cathode fluorescent lamp as the light source 222, and the light from the document is guided to the CCD 229 by the fist mirror 223, second mirror 224, third mirror 225, first carriage 226, second carriage 227, and image converging lens 228. The scanner unit 220 is constituted using a white color fluorescent lamp such as a cold-cathode fluorescent lamp as the light source 222. Therefore, color reproducibility is better than in the case of the below-described CIS 231 using a three-color LED (Light Emitting Diode) as a light source.

The user manually places the document on the glass 221 when the document is read without using the document feed unit 210. The light source 222 and the first mirror 223 are supported by the first carriage 226, and the second mirror 224 and the third mirror 225 are supported by the second carriage 227.

The document reading system of the image reading unit 200 can be of a flat bed reading mode in which the document placed on the glass 221 is read by the scanner unit 220 and an ADF reading mode in which the document is introduced by the document feed unit 210 (ADF) and the document is read in the conveying process.

In the flat bed reading mode, the document placed on the glass 221 is irradiated by light from the light source 222, and the reflected light of one line in the main scanning direction is successively reflected by the first mirror 223, second mirror 224, and third mirror 225 and falls on the image converging lens 228. The image of the light incident upon the image converging lens 228 is formed on the light receiving surface of the CCD 229.

The CCD 229 is a one-dimensional image sensor which copies and processes image data of the document corresponding to one line. The first carriage 226 and the second carriage 227 are configured to be capable of moving in the directions perpendicular to the main scanning direction (sub-scanning direction, direction of arrow Y), and when the reading of one line is completed, the first carriage 226 and the second carriage 227 move in the sub-scanning direction and the next line is read.

In the ADF reading mode, the document feed unit 210 uses the pick-up roller 212 to pick up one by one the documents placed on the document tray 211. In this case, the first carriage 226 and the second carriage 227 are arranged in a predetermined reading position P that is located below the reading window 230.

When the document passes above the reading window 230 provided in the conveying path from the platen 213 to the discharge tray 215 while the document is being conveyed by the document feed unit 210, the document is irradiated by the light source 222 and the reflected light of one line in the main scanning direction is successively reflected by the first mirror 223, second mirror 224, and third mirror 225 and falls on the image converging lens 228. The image of the light incident upon the image converging lens 228 is formed on the light receiving surface of the CCD 229. The document is then conveyed by the document feed unit 210 and the next line is read.

The document feed unit 210 has a reverse mechanism provided with a switching guide 216, a reverse roller 217, and a reverse conveying path 218. The reverse mechanism turns over the document that has been read on the front surface in the ADF reading process of the first cycle and again conveys the document to the reading window 230, thereby making it possible to read the back surface of the document with the CCD 229.

The reverse mechanism operates only in a two-side reading mode and does not operate in a one-side reading mode. After one-side reading and reading of the back surface in two-side reading, the switching guide 216 is switched upward and the document that has passed by the platen 213 is discharged by the discharge roller 214 to the discharge tray 215.

After front surface reading in the two-side reading mode, the switching guide 216 is switched downward and the document that has passed by the platen 213 is conveyed by the reverse roller 217 to the reverse conveying path 218. The switching guide 216 is thereafter switched upward, the reverse roller 217 rotates in reverse, and the document is again fed to the platen 213. The mode in which both surfaces of the document are read by using the reverse mechanism will be referred to as a two-side reverse reading mode.

In the image reading unit 200, the back surface of the document can be read by the CIS 231 substantially in parallel with reading of the front surface of the document by the CCD 229 (scanner unit 220) in the document conveying process during the ADF reading mode. In this case, the front surface of the document that has been conveyed from the document tray 211 by the document feed unit 210 is read by the CCD 229 when the document passes above the reading window 230, and the back surface is read when the document passes by the installation location of the CIS 231. RGB three-color LEDs are used as a light source in the CIS 231.

By using the CCD 229 and the CIS 231 in the above-described manner, it is possible to read the front and rear surfaces of the document in one-cycle (one-pass) document conveying operation performed by the document feed unit 210 from the document tray 211 to the discharge tray 215. The mode in which both surfaces of the document are read by using the CCD 229 and the CIS 231 will be referred to as a two-side simultaneous reading mode.

The two-side reverse reading mode and the two-side simultaneous reading mode are provided as reading modes in which two-side reading of the document is performed by using the ADF reading mode. The two-side reverse reading mode is used when the quality of printed images on both sides is wished to be matched, and the two-side simultaneous reading mode is used when the shortening of reading time is a priority, even if there is a difference in quality between the printed images of the two sides. The image forming apparatus 1 is initially set to the two-side simultaneous reading mode, and the image reading operation of the document is performed in the two-side simultaneous reading mode when the image forming instruction is inputted without performing any mode setting operation with respect to the reading mode.

The image forming apparatus 1 has the image forming main body unit 22 and a stack tray 6 provided on the left side of the image forming main body unit 22. The image forming main body unit 22 is provided with a plurality of paper sheet feed cassettes 461, a feed roller 462 that supplies the paper sheets one by one from the paper sheet feed cassettes 461 and conveys the paper sheets to the image forming unit 40, and the image forming unit 40 that forms an image on the paper sheet conveyed from the paper sheet feed cassette 461. The image forming main body unit 22 is provided with a feed tray 471 and a supply roller 472 that supplies one by one the documents placed on the feed tray 471 toward the image forming unit 40.

The image forming unit 40 is provided with a charge neutralization device 421 that removes residual charges from the surface of a photosensitive drum 43, a charging device 422 that charges the surface of the photosensitive drum 43 after charge neutralization, an exposure device 423 that outputs a laser beam on the basis of image data acquired by the scanner unit 220, exposes the surface of the photosensitive drum 43, and forms an electrostatic latent image on the surface of the photosensitive drum 43, development devices 44K, 44Y, 44M, 44C that form toner images of cyan (C), magenta (M), yellow (Y), and black (K) colors on the photosensitive drum 43 on the basis of the electrostatic latent image, a transfer drum 49 that transfers and superimposes the toner images of each color that have been formed on the photosensitive drum 43, a transfer device 41 that transfers the toner images located on the transfer drum 49 onto a paper sheet, and a fixing device 45 that heats the paper sheet onto which the toner images have been transferred and fixes the toner images to the paper.

The supply of toners of cyan, magenta, yellow, and black colors is performed from toner cartridges (not shown in the figure). Further, conveying rollers 463, 464 are provided to convey the paper sheet that has passed through the image forming unit 40 to the stack tray 6 or discharge tray 48.

When an image is formed on both sides of a paper sheet, the image is formed on one surface of the paper sheet in the image forming unit 40, and the paper sheet is then nipped by the conveying roller 463 on the discharge tray 48 side. The conveying roller 463 is reversed in this state, switchback of the paper sheet is performed, the paper sheet is carried to the paper conveying path PL, and again conveyed to the region upstream of the image forming unit 40. After the image has been formed on the other surface of the paper sheet by the image forming unit 40, the paper sheet is discharged to the stack tray 6 or discharge tray 48.

FIG. 2 is a block diagram illustrating an example of electrical configuration of the image forming apparatus 1 shown in FIG. 1. The image forming apparatus 1 is provided with an ASIC (Application Specific Integrated Circuit) 10 for image processing, the user interface unit I, a system control unit 14, an image reading control unit 15, an image formation control unit 16 (example of control unit), a management unit 17, an operation control unit 19, a setting unit 20, the image forming unit 40, and the image reading unit 200.

The ASIC 10 for image processing, system control unit 14, image reading control unit 15, image formation control unit 16, and management unit 17 are configured to be capable of exchanging data with each other via a bus B1. The operation control unit 19 is connected to the user interface unit I, the image reading control unit 15 is connected to the image reading unit 200, the image formation control unit 16 is connected to the image forming unit 40, and the management unit 17 is connected to the setting unit 20.

The ASIC 10 for image processing is provided with an image data acquisition unit 11, a frequency distribution acquisition unit 12, and a color setting unit 13. The image data acquisition unit 11 acquires image data representing a color image. The image data acquisition unit 11 represents the color of each pixel constituting the image data by density values of three preset primary colors, for example, cyan (C), magenta (M), and yellow (Y). The image data acquisition unit 11 represents the density values by predetermined basic bit numbers, for example by 8 bits.

The image data acquisition unit 11 may also represent image data by density values of red, green, and blue. In this case, the density values of red, green and blue are also represented by basic bit numbers, for example by 8 bits.

The image data acquisition unit 11 may acquire image data, for example, by receiving via the image reading control unit 15 the color image data that have been read from the document by the image reading unit 200. The image data acquisition unit 11 may acquire image data, for example, by receiving via a network (not shown in the figure) the color image data from a personal computer or the like connected to the network. The image data acquisition unit 11 may acquire image data, for example, by receiving the color image data that have been sent from a facsimile device via a telephone line (not shown in the figure). The image data acquisition unit 11 may also acquire image data obtained by subjecting the aforementioned image data to intermediate processing such as bleed removal.

The ASIC 10 for image processing performs the predetermined image processing with respect to the image data acquired by the image data acquisition unit 11. For example, the ASIC 10 for image processing (example of image processing unit) performs background color change processing of changing the background color in the image data to a predetermined color. (see, for example, U.S. Pat. No. 6,567,544).

This background color change processing replaces the color of pixels with white color, for example, when the pixels that should have white color, which is a background color in color images, have a different color, e.g., in the case where the density of the base surface in the original document with a color image is high or when the back page of the original document is seen through.

The frequency distribution acquisition unit 12 allocates the color of each pixel of image data D to statistical classes on the basis of image data D acquired by the image data acquisition unit 11 and acquires a frequency distribution in which the occurrence rate of each color in image data D is taken as a frequency. The frequency distribution acquisition unit 12 sends frequency distribution information indicating frequency distribution to the color setting unit 13 and the image formation control unit 16.

The frequency distribution as referred to herein is obtained by dividing a variate range into a plurality of classes when a sample has a certain variate, and calculating the number of samples having the variate belonging to each class as a frequency (occurrence rate). The frequency distribution acquisition unit 12 takes pixels as samples and pixel values (density values) representing the colors of pixels as variates and divides the colors, that is, pixel values, into a plurality of ranges to obtain classes. The classes are not necessarily ranges of a fixed width, and pixel values, that is, colors, may be in a one-to-one correspondence relationship with the classes.

For example, where image data D are present that are constituted by three colors, namely, red, blue, and yellow, red blue and yellow become classes, and the numbers of red, blue, and yellow pixels included in the pixel data D are taken as occurrence rates (frequencies) of each color (class).

The diagram in which such colors (classes) are plotted against the abscissa and the occurrence rate (frequency) is plotted against the ordinate to represent the frequency distribution in a two-dimensional system of coordinate is known as the so-called histogram.

The color setting unit 13 sets pattern colors on the basis of occurrence rate of each color in the frequency distribution acquired by the frequency distribution acquisition unit 12. The processing performed by the color setting unit 13 will be described below in greater detail.

The user interface unit I is provided with an operation input unit 18 (example of an identification information input unit) provided with a plurality of operation buttons and a display unit 5 constituted by LED or a touch panel.

The operation input unit 18 is constituted, for example, by a start button, a variety of setting buttons, or a touch panel. The operation input unit 18 and display unit 5 may be also constituted, for example, by a touch panel provided with a display function in which a liquid crystal display device and a touch panel are integrated.

The operation control unit 19 receives a signal indicating the operation input received by the operation input unit 18 and outputs the signal indicating the operation input to the image formation control unit 16 or the setting unit 20.

More specifically, for example, when the start button in the operation input unit 18 is pushed, the operation control unit 19 sends a signal requesting to start the formation of image to the image formation control unit 16. Further, when the operation input unit 18 receives an operation instruction allowing a single-color pattern mode to be executed, the operation control unit 19 sets to the setting unit 20 a signal requesting a setting that allows a single-color pattern mode to be executed. When the operation input unit 18 receives an input of user identification information, the operation control unit 19 sends this identification information to the image formation control unit 16.

The operation control unit 19 displays on the display unit 5 the display corresponding to the display request outputted from the system control unit 14, the image formation control unit 16, or the like.

The system control unit 14 is constituted, for example, by using a microcomputer. The system control unit 14 systematically controls the operation of the image forming apparatus 1 by executing the predetermined control program. The image reading control unit 15 is constituted, for example, by using a microcomputer. The image reading control unit 15 controls the image reading operation performed by the image reading unit 200 by executing the predetermined control program.

The management unit 17 is a storage device constituted, for example, by using a storage element such as a RAM (Random Access Memory). The user identification information, for example, an ID code, is stored in advance in the management unit 17. Identification information of the user that is allowed to perform only image formation in a monochromatic mode and the identification information of the user that is allowed to form images in both the monochromatic mode and the full-color mode are stored in the management unit 17 so as to be distinguishable from one another.

The user allowed to perform only the image formation in the monochromatic mode will be referred to hereinbelow as a monochromatic-restricted user and the user allowed to perform image formation in both the monochromatic mode and the full-color mode will be referred to as an unrestricted user.

The management unit 17 is not necessarily required to store identification information of the user allowed to perform image formation in the monochromatic mode and full-color mode. The monochromatic mode and full-color mode will be described below.

The management unit 17 also stores charging information indicating the fee that should be charged to the user in association with the identification information of each user.

As a result, for example, the businessperson that manages the image forming apparatus 1 can ask the user to pay for image formation by reading the charging information stored in the management unit 17. In other words, in the image formatting apparatus 1, the processing of storing the charging information in the management unit 17 corresponds to charging processing.

The setting unit 20 is constituted, for example, by using a microcomputer. The setting unit 20 performs the setting of whether or not to allow the execution of the below-described single-color pattern mode by executing the predetermined control program.

The setting that allows the execution of the single-color pattern mode will be referred to hereinbelow as a pattern mode allowed setting. Thus, the presence of the pattern mode allowed setting indicates that the execution of the single-color pattern mode has been allowed, and the absence of the pattern mode allowed setting indicates that the execution of the single-color pattern mode has not been allowed.

When the operation control unit 19 sends a signal requesting the setting that allows the execution of the single-color pattern mode, the setting unit 20 stores in the management unit 17 the information that indicates the pattern mode allowed setting in association with the identification information of the user for whom the single-color pattern mode is allowed. As a result, the pattern mode allowed setting is performed by the setting unit 20.

The setting unit 20 may also perform the pattern mode allowed setting as a setting for the entire image forming apparatus 1, regardless of the object user, and may store the presence or absence of the pattern mode allowed setting for each user (identification information) stored in the management unit 17.

A configuration may be also used which is not provided with the setting unit 20 and in which the execution of the pattern mode is uniformly allowed for all monochromatic-restricted users. The setting unit 20 is not necessarily required to perform the pattern mode allowed setting for the users that are allowed to execute both the monochromatic mode and the full-color mode.

The image formation control unit 16 is constituted, for example, by a microcomputer. The image formation control unit 16 controls image formation by the image forming unit 40 by executing the predetermined control program. The image formation control unit 16 receives printing image data from the ASIC 10 for image processing. The image formation control unit 16 has a monochromatic mode (black-and-white mode), a mono-color mode, a full-color mode, and a single-color pattern mode.



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stats Patent Info
Application #
US 20120105880 A1
Publish Date
05/03/2012
Document #
13283883
File Date
10/28/2011
USPTO Class
358/19
Other USPTO Classes
International Class
04N1/60
Drawings
19


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